Week 6

We just spent most of our second and final week in Tatebayashi working in the Kanto production plant, and returned to Tokyo on Friday. We generally spent the first half of each day learning about the workings of the plant, and then the second half working on our individual projects, which mainly involved transcribing more interviews on my part. Also, the results from my survey came in this week and contained a lot of surprises, which I’m excited to delve into more!

 

Two tutors and a boss, Mr. T, Mr. S, and Mr. N, mainly guided us around. Those three along with employees from various departments gave us presentations on the plant’s operations and tours of the factory. The plant here is pretty impressive- it has many production lines for instant noodles, wontons, and fried tofu, offices and labs, a nice cafeteria and break room, a museum for visitors, and even a little wildlife biotope area outside with a pond. Even after seeing three Maruchan production plants in America, the sheer scale, coordination, and level of technology used in the plant’s production seriously awed me.

 

Some of the factory workers we met during the tours have spent time at the Maruchan plants in America for training, and a few even lived in my hometown of Richmond while working at the Virginia plant! It felt so strange yet exciting to have conversations about specific stores, parks, etc. that I grew up with while being across the world from home in a small town in Japan. Some other highlights included going to a karaoke parlor for the first time and having a farewell dinner with a few of our production plant coworkers. Ordinarily the idea of singing in front of other people would not sound very appealing to me, but I couldn’t just go to the birth country of karaoke without giving it a try. Michael and I went with a couple of acquaintances from R&D, and although I felt nervous at first, we all ended up having a blast belting Disney, Bon Jovi, and anime songs together. The private room for our small group, the microphone’s echo filter, and the fact that none of us were professional vocalists all made it easier to open up and just have fun with it. To anyone who goes to Japan, I would encourage you to give it a try at least once!

 

Later in the week, on the night before we returned to Tokyo, our tutors and one of the other employees from the plant took us out to a farewell dinner at an oden restaurant. Oden is a large shared bowl of broth filled with boiled ingredients of everyone’s choosing such as vegetables, meat, tofu, etc. It was a tasty, fun meal, but saying goodbye to our new friends afterwards was harder than I expected. Even though it was just a week with them, and two weeks total in Tatebayashi, I felt real connections with the people and places there. Tatebayashi is a small town and very different from Tokyo of course – a little older-fashioned and a lot more agrarian – but it still has a lot of life and a lot to grow fond of. That being said, I am glad to be back in the big city with its easily-accessible public transportation, my apartment with a real kitchen, and all the people I know from headquarters.

 

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Even if you feel shy at first, the karaoke experience is not to be dismissed!

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The mouthwatering oden at our farewell dinner from the production plant

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